Tuesday, 21 September 2021
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This year, summertime is puppy training time

“Have any big plans for the summer?” people sometimes ask by way of small talk. I reply literally: “Yes, housetraining a new puppy.”

Our newest family member is a 12-week-old Labrador retriever mix — jet black from the top of his nose to the tip of his slightly odd long tail. When I phoned the local vet to make his first appointment, the receptionist asked his age (he was then 8 weeks), his sex and his breed. I replied, “He’s a mutt.” She corrected, “We say mixed.” She was kidding … I think.

We adopted this pup through Lonely Hearts Animal Rescue. I wish I could say that we did it entirely to save a dog who would otherwise possibly have been euthanized. But in truth that was only part of the reason. Our last dog, Cali, a gorgeous, exuberantly loving golden retriever, broke our hearts when she died of cancer at age 7. Goldens are the No. 1 victims of cancer in the dog world, and other pure breeds also suffer from a variety of ailments to which mutts are far less prone. The genetics are pretty straightforward. When you select for certain traits — beautiful coats, particular colors and sizes, head shape — you breed from a limited pool. You get the good traits but also a higher concentration of bad ones (like susceptibility to disease).